Monday, 28 December 2009

The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan

"Each year the magicians of Imardin gather together to purge the city streets of vagrants, urchins and miscreants. Masters of the disciplines of magic, they know that no one can oppose them. But their protective shield is not as impenetrable as they believe. Sonea, angry, frustrated and outraged by the treatment of her family and friends, hurls a stone at the shield, putting all her rage behind it. To the amazement of all who bear witness, the stone passes unhindered through the barrier and renders a magician unconscious. The guild's worst fear has been realised There is an untrained magician loose on the streets. She must be found before her uncontrolled powers unleash forces that will destroy both her, and the city that is her home."

This is the first book in the Black Magicians Trilogy, and I agreed to read it after two of my best friends told me I had to. After all the books I've forced on them in the past year, I figured it was only fair I tried it. I wasn't really sure I'd like it, feeling it would be a little more fantasy than I like, but I was quickly hooked and loved the book. I owe both friends an apology for being hesitant and taking months to pick it up and try it.

Sonea is a dwell, poor and living in the slums surrounding the city where the Magicians and upper class live. Along with her friends they throw rocks at the magicians magical wall of protection on the day of the purge, the day when all the dwells who do have somewhere to live, are kicked out and moved further away from the inner city. They've done this before, but this time is different. When Sonea throws her rock, instead of disintegrating as it hits the shield, it passes through and hits a magician on the head, knocking him unconscious. Terrified of what they'll do to her if they catch her, and knowing that they'll hunt her, she trusts her friends, the other teenage dwells, to keep her safe.

They live on the run, moving almost constantly as the magicians try to drop a net around her. Sonea and those who are trying to protect her, are convinced the magicians will kill her instantly. Hundreds of years and never has a dwell been treated as anything more than a beggar and a thief. Why would they let her in? But the magicians leading the hunt for her, Rothen and Dannyl, simply want to find her before her power destroys her, and train her to control it. But they don't have much time, and catching and convincing Sonea they mean her no harm, when others do, will be easier said than done.

The book is written in third person, but in the 'perspective' of several of the characters, Sonea and Rothen in particular, but several others get decent page time as well. The idea behind the story, a poor young girl with power she had no idea of, isn't something new or mind blowing, but this is still a well written story, with great likable characters (and a very unlikable bad guy) and a well thought out and described world. The plot moves along at a good pace and has some decent twists and turns. I was hooked right to the end and left wanting the next book immediately! Can't wait to get the other two books and see if they live up to the start of this one.

Rating: 9/10

Fade Out by Rachel Caine

Spoiler warning! No specific ones for this, but there are some for the previous books.

"Without the evil vampire Bishop ruling over the town of Morganville, the resident vampires have made major concessions to the human population. With their newfound freedom, Claire Danvers and her friends are almost starting to feel comfortable again...Now Claire can actually concentrate on her studies, and her friend Eve joins the local theatre company. But when one of Eve's castmates goes missing after starting work on a short documentary, Eve suspects the worst. Claire and Eve soon realise that this film project, featuring the vampires themselves, is a whole lot bigger - and way more dangerous - than anyone suspected."

After 6 books that are all continuing plots, this 7th book is pretty much the start of a new plot arch in the Morganville world. Things have calmed down for the 4 teen housemates, to a certain extent, and things appear to be a little safer. But then some new vamps show up and things start getting messy again.

I finished this book days ago, and still can't figure out if I hate it, or if it's simply okay. On the good side, Claire is showing she's done some serious (and much needed) growing up. There is the introduction to Kim, a girl who rapidly becomes Eve's new BFF and leaves Claire wondering what's going on and very jealous, and jealous too of Shane's (her boyfriend) previous relationship with Kim. Both of which are realistic and I'm sure teens reading the book will easily relate to the feelings expressed. Another good side plot is Michael's torn loyalties to the vampires and his human friends, and the strain it puts his relationship with Eve under. All of these things had me interested and enjoying the book.

However, there are several plots here that really don't work. Amelie, Morganville's unapproachable and unrelenting founder, is a completely different character here. She spends most of the book upset and not her usual 'white marble' self, which is both disappointing and annoying. The plot revolving around Kim, could have been good I think, but the main focus of anger and upset ends up on certain aspects that whilst yes, give cause for the reactions, should not have become the sole focus as they did. Likewise, the characters reactions, Eve's in particular, to the betrayal from another character seemed very weak and far too forgiving.

The other main plot involves Ada, the computer/ghost/vampire that 'runs' Morganville unseen. The idea of something like that is, as a friend so aptly put it, 'a little out there, even for me'. But here, she becomes a bigger player and it gets tired in about 2 pages. That it drags on for the entire book is bad enough, but the conclusion it comes to was frustrating and disappointing. The whole ending in fact was a real let down. In many ways nothing happened, and a lot happened. That doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it's true. Several little things happened to tie up threads, or leave new ones open for the next book, but nothing big happened. And after the build up through the book for something big, it was very anti climatic leaving me annoyed.

The book itself isn't that long a read, and it's pretty fast going. I was still pretty well hooked despite it's flaws and finished it in a couple days. But for me, it is a series very much aimed at teens rather than being a series that can be equally loved by adults. A little young at times, a little simple, but with good moments. A series I have to rate over Twilight simply because the characters don't annoy me as much as Bella and Edward do, but really, if you want a very good young adult vampire series, one with great characters and plots, you have to read Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series. There is no better in my view! Fade Out may be better than some Morganville Books, but it's not the best and the series is never going to be a favourite of mine.

Rating: 4/10

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Reign or Shine by Michelle Rowan

"As if trying to fit in at a new school isn't stressful enough, sixteen-year-old Nikki Donovan just found out that her long-lost father is, in fact, the demon king of the Shadowlands—the world that separates and protects us from the Underworld. When she is brought there by the mysterious—and surprisingly cute—messenger Michael, she learns that her father is dying, and he wants her to assume the throne. To complicate matters, a war is brewing between the Shadowlands and the Underworld, her half-demon qualities are manifesting, and her growing feelings for Michael are completely forbidden. Ruling a kingdom, navigating a secret crush, and still making it home by curfew—what's a teenage demon princess to do?"

Nikki has moved around a lot, her mom is on her fourth marriage, and she's always been an outcast. But to her surprise, life in the latest small town is not so bad. Things are going well at school, her best friend is the most popular girl and the hottest guy in school is interested in her. But then she meets Michael who starts telling her all this crazy stuff about other worlds and demons. And that she's a half demon princess. Nikki doesn't believe him at first, but it doesn't take her long to realise that he's not lying to her, although there is a lot he won't say. And as she begins to crush on him, she wishes things weren't as complicated as they are. The longer she spends around Michael and in the Shadowlands, the more Nikki realises that everything is not as it seems. But is there anything she can do to make things better?

This is the first book in the Demon Princess series, and it's the first book by Michelle I've read. I wasn't sure before hand if it was something I'd like, but I was pleasantly surprised. I loved this book. It's lighter YA than some out there, with plenty of humor. But it doesn't stop the characters from having depth and for me, that's what makes this book a winner. Nikki's view of high school, and the way she crushes on Chris, is familiar and something I think most readers will be able to relate with. There is a good balance between the humor and the darker aspects of the book, and I love Nikki's character. The secondary characters have a good depth to them as well and make for fun reading.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I'm looking forward to the second book! 8/10

Monday, 14 December 2009

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

"Dru Anderson: Night Hunter. Knife Wielder. Heart Breaker.

Dru can sense evil, which helps when she and her Dad are tracking down ghosts, suckers, wulfen, and the occasional reanimated corpse. It's a dangerous life, but it's the only one she knows. Then Dru's dad turns up dead and she suddenly finds herself in the middle of a deadly game where every move she makes could be her last. Dru is more special than she realizes - and whatever killed her dad could be coming for her next. Can Dru stay alive long enough to fall for one - or both - of the guys hungry for her affections?"

Dru knows about the 'Real World' the one where the things that go bump in the night exist, she's been hunting those things along side her father for years. But now she's on her own in a new town with no one she can turn to and grieving the loss of her father, and trying to deal with the trauma of what happened with him. To her surprise, it's a human boy from her class, Graves, who comes to her aid giving her somewhere to stay and some much needed company. But Graves doesn't know about Dru's world and that's risky. For him and Dru.

While Graves is getting a crash course about the reality of the Real World, Dru is learning that it's far bigger than she imagined and that everything is not exactly what she's been told. The one enlightening her is Christophe, a (very cute) guy who isn't all human. And while he seems to want to help, there's a lot he's not saying. And whilst Dru is busy dealing with her grief, trying to keep Graves alive and deciding if Christophe can really be trusted, she learns that she's been targeted by a very nasty sucker (vampire) and she's going to need more than all the knowledge and skills her father taught her to stay alive.

This is the first YA book from Ms. St. Crow and I love it. It's dark and dangerous with great characters you can relate to. Dru is tough, but she's also very vulnerable, particularly after losing her father, and unlike so many heroines she does scream and run when she's attacked out of the blue. The way her relationship develops Graves is great reading. It's kind of slow, awkward and cute, and realistic. Both Graves and Christophe make excellent secondary characters, with their own history and issues to deal with.

The plot is pretty tight. There is a fair bit of world building in this first book which is necessary although a little slow at times, but despite that the plot moves along quickly with some great twists and turns. I was left wanting a lot more and seriously regretting being unable to buy more books until after Christmas! A fantastic book and I think the series is quickly going to be a favourite of mine. Dru is far from perfect, but she's easy to relate to and despite wanting to slap her a couple of times, I really, really like her. I'm looking forward to much more of her story! 9/10

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

"Amid the chaos of war, the Shadowhunters must decide to fight with the vampires, werewolves and other Downworlders - or against them. Meanwhile, Jace and Clary have their own decision to make: should they pursue the love they know is forbidden?"

This is the final book in the first Mortal Instruments trilogy and picks up just after the end of the events of City of Ashes. Clary is after a cure for her mom, and she discovers that someone who may know about the cure exists, in Idris home of the Shadowhunters. But Jace doesn't want her going and does what he can to stop her getting there. But Clary being Clary, she gets herself there anyway, ignoring all advice from those who know so much more than her. It doesn't take the young Shadowhunters long to realise things are worse than expected in Alicante and that Valentine is very close to achieving exactly what he wants.

It was clear from near the end of the second book to readers what the outcome of the Clary/Jace situation would be. And yet, it becomes the all consuming storyline through this book, with other things being pushed to the side for it, and you have to wonder why they didn't figure it out long, long before they did. The tension that should have been there wasn't, because it was far too obvious what was going to happen and Clary and Jace just repeated the same things over and over getting ever more tiresome.

Clary's inability to learn to listen to those around her who have far more experience with what she's dealing with has become annoying as well. The character death that occurs in this book should have been hard hitting, but it's quickly pushed aside for more angst in the Clary, Jace camp. There is a flashback scene in Valentines house which is well done and one of the few highlights of the book. Otherwise, the book is very predictable with few surprises along the way. It's pretty easy reading so you can finish pretty quick despite it's length, and I still liked it, but it could have been better. The main plots get well wrapped up come the end, but there are a few subplots that get just partially wrapped up very briefly. But things aren't so neat that there's no space for more with the characters, which is a good thing for fans of the series. For me, not sure I'd pick up another book about Clary and Jace. I think I've had my fill. 5/10

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

Some spoilers for the previous books, but not this one. Read at your own risk ;)

"Yelena's apprenticeship is over - now her real test has begun. When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder - able to capture and release souls - spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena's unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena's fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before. Honour sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself - and save the land she holds dear."

Fire Study is the final book in the Study trilogy. I loved the first two books, and happily this one wasn't a disappointment. It gets in to the action pretty quickly with the master magicians still trying to decide just what to do with Yelena. She's remaining in Sitia for the time being, with the intention of learning better control of her magic. But she's quickly off on the trail of the escaped Cahil and Ferde, both of whom have big plans and part of that involves seeing Yelena dead. She's scared of Ferde, and pretty much terrified of what the men will accomplish, but she's determined to stop them hurting anyone else.

With the help of her brother, her story weaver and a couple new friends, and of course her horse Kiki, she sets out on the dangerous mission. But it quickly goes down hill as they realise things are far worse than they'd all thought. And more than they could have imagined.

For me, I found this a very satisfying ending to the trilogy. There were some good twists and turns and I found myself struggling to put the book down. The writing wasn't as smooth as the first two books, but in someways, I found it emphasized Yelena's state of mind. She struggles a lot through this book, not that she hasn't in the past two, but in this it's different some how. She knows a lot more now, and there are a lot of expectations and pressures on Yelena that she's not used to. And she's trying to deal with the consequences on being a Soulfinder as well. Fire Study shows just how human Yelena is, her fear getting the best of her at times and having serious consequences. Her relationship with Valek isn't going very smoothly either, and she's struggling to find her way in a world where she's not really welcome anywhere.

There were some really heartfelt moments, and some very funny moments as well, particularly where Ari and Janco were concerned. We got to see more of several characters and met some new ones, and with both we discover not everyone is as they seem. The end of the book was satisfying as well. Pretty much all the loose ends got tied up nicely, but not so tightly that you can't imagine future events for the characters. Thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to reading the second trilogy set in the same world as soon as I can! 8/10

Monday, 7 December 2009

LOLcats Vampire Academy

Okay, this has been done for the competition on Richelle Mead's blog I've never attempted anything like it before, my sister is the one with photo editing skills, so I apologize for it not being very good, but I had fun making it :)
With exception of the photos belonging to all photos belong to me. Though sadly not the cats in them. The bunny is mine though and I promise he wasn't harmed in the making of this ;)

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Immortal edited by P.C. Cast

"In Immortal: Love Stories With Bite, edited by New York Times bestselling author of the House of Night series P.C. Cast, seven of today's most popular YA vampire and contemporary fantasy authors offer new short stories that prove that when you're immortal, true love really is forever.
Rachel Caine (the Morganville Vampires series) revisits the setting of her popular series, where the vampires are in charge and love is risky
Cynthia Leitich Smith (Tantalize) gives us a love triangle between a vampire, a ghost and a human girl, in which none of them are who or what they seem
Claudia Gray (Evernight) takes us into the world of her Evernight series, in which a pre-Civil War courtesan-to-be is courted by a pale, fair-haired man whose attentions are too dangerous to spurn
Richelle Mead (the Vampire Academy series) brings us the tale of a young vampire on the run from the rest of her kind, and the human boy who provides the getaway car
Nancy Holder (the Wicked series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) immerses us in a post-apocalyptic New York where two best friends are forced to make a choice that may kill them both
Kristin Cast (the House of Night series) introduces us to a new kind of vampire: one with roots in Greek mythology, and the power to alter space and time
And Tanith Lee (Black Unicorn) shows us what happens when a bright young woman with some supernatural savvy encounters a misguided (but gorgeous) young vampire"
Here is a short review for each of the eight story in this great little anthology.

1. Haunted Love by Cynthia Leitich Smith 4.5/5 - great short story! Little bit different being from the perspective of a guy instead of the girl, but the characters are well done for a short story.
2. Amber Smoke by Kristin Cast 1/5 - I am not a House Of Night fan, but as that is a joint effort with her mom, I wondered if this could be better. It's not. It, like HON, has the potential to be really good. But the protagonist is far, far too self centered and shallow. Didn't like her at all.
3. Dead Man Stalking by Rachel Caine 3/5 - A Morganville Vampires short story told from Shane's perspective. Typical Morganville stuff, good but not great. And I wonder about how much someone who's not read any of the Morganville books before would get out of it. Still, liked it.
4. Table Manners by Tanith Lee 4/5 - fun story! Not spectatular, but it is great fun and made me smile. Really intereting ideas too!
5. Blue Moon by Richelle Mead 4/5 - great short story. Would have loved more though! Doesn't have as much strength as her Vampire Academy series, but I would love to read more set in this world.
6. Changed by Nancy Holder 4.5/5 - excellent short story with great Characters. Feel so bad for Jilly, but by the end you've got to love her strength too.
7. Binge by Rachel Vincent 5/5 - one world: Wow. Amazing story. Fantastic characters that you can relate to easily. Would love to see more from these particular characters, but will settle for the second Soul Screamers book (same world) in the mean time.
8. Free by Claudia Gray 4.5/5 - different, intriguing story. Really liked it though. Will check out her Evernight series after reading this.

Overall, really great young adult anthology with the stories from Richelle Mead, Rachel Vincent, Cynthia Leitich Smith and Claudia Grey all being fantastic. And with the exception of the story from Kristin Cast, the rest aren't far behind. An anthology well worth having for Rachel Vincent's 'Binge' alone, but the rest make it better value ;) 9/10

Friday, 13 November 2009

Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder

Magic Study is the second book in the Study trilogy. So as usual, some unavoidable spoilers for the previous book. Read this at your own risk...

"Completing her apprenticeship could prove deadly...

With an execution order on her head, Yelena has no choice but to escape to Sitia, the land of her birth. With only a year to master her magic - or face death - Yelena must begin her apprenticeship and travels to the Four Towers of the Magician's Keep.

But nothing in Sitia is familiar. Not the family to whom she is a stranger. Not the unsettling new facets of her magic. Nor the brother who resents her return. As she struggles to understand where she belongs and how to control her rare powers, a rogue magician emerges - and Yelena catches his eye. Suddenly she is embroiled in battle of good against evil. And once again it will be her magical abilities that will either save her life...or be her downfall."

After discovering the truth of her heritage Yelena has been exiled from Ixia, the land she calls home, to escape an execution order. There she faces a family she doesn't remember, a land she doesn't remember, a way of life she doesn't understand and people who hate her before even meeting her. She doesn't have her friends or her beloved with her and is having to trust master magician Irys, despite barely knowing her either.

Yelena struggles to find a place in Sitia. The more she tries to do what she believes right, the more trouble she finds herself in with the first master magician, the brother who despises her and Sitian residents in general. And then a rouge magician begins to close in on Yelena whilst an Ixian delegation (including a few old friends) is around and Yelena has to figure out quickly how to master her magic, and who she can trust to help her out.

This second book shows us a different side to the world Ms. Snyder has created. Sitia is very different to Ixia, where magic is forbidden, and the contrast is really interesting. Here we learn about different types of magic, what is and isn't allowed, how the world is divided in to different sections and the difference between clans.

As the story unfolds we get to see some great character development with Yelena as she finds out how much power she has, how to use it and adjusting to her new life. We're also introduced to some great new characters and get some more depth on some favourites from Poison Study. Yelena grows up quite a bit in this book, being yanked out of the familiar and learning to stand on her own feet, and when she needs to ask for help.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, just as much as Poison Study even though it's quite different because of the setting. This series has a soft strength to it that makes it compulsive reading, but not a on-the-edge-of-your-seat gripping nature. Which makes a very nice change to most of what I read. I like how Yelena isn't the most confident girl around, yet has this huge heart to help others. And I like how her confidence is growing, but not at the cost of that goodness. Just giving her the extra strength to step up when she needs to, to speak out and help more. But her growing confidence also doesn't mean she becomes unfeeling towards the growing dislike and fear of her among the Sitians. She doesn't like it, and it makes her uncomfortable. She's not perfect and she's affected by the way people are around her, not always in positive ways. Another plus point. Overall, a really great read and I'd highly recommend this series. 9/10

Sunday, 8 November 2009

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

SPOILER WARNING!! Usual thing, no real spoilers for the book itself, but some sizable spoilers for the first book. Read at your own risk ;)

"With her mother in a coma and her father hellbent on destroying the world, Clary Fray is dragged deeper into New York City's terrifying underworld of werewolves, demons and the mysterious Shadowhunters. Discovering the truth about her past was only the beginning. Now the fate of the world rests on Clary's shoulders, but can she master her new-found powers and control her feelings for a boy who can never be hers?"

City of Ashes is the second book in the Mortal Instruments series. It picks up just after the events of the first book, City of Bones.

Having learnt the truth of her heritage, and that the boy she's fallen for is actually her brother, Clary struggles to keep positive and moving forward. Her mom is in a coma with little chance of recovery, her best friend wants more than she can give, her brother (Jace) is going off the deep end having discovered the truth about his heritage (and Clary may be the only one who can reach him), facing the Inquisitor (a Shadowhunter who seems to have a personal interest in destroying Jace). And, oh yeah, all hell is breaking loose (literally) as Valentine, her father, tries to create a war that will destroy all underworlders, and anyone else who gets in the way, including his kids. Creating the war means recovering the rest of the Mortal Instruments, and turning them to his own dark uses, something Clary, Jace and the rest of the team will do anything to stop.

Like Bones, Ashes is told in third person, but although most of the book is still Clary's 'perspective' there is a lot from Jace's as well, and a few other characters. The different perspectives help to tell the story pretty well, giving a good look at various aspects of the world. This second book sees Clary and Jace discovering still more about their heritage and the introduction of several new characters adds to the world nicely.

There are time though, where the plot felt a little sluggish. And there is also the odd word that feels like the authors picked up the thesaurus to add more interesting words or something, instead of the normally simple narrative, which doesn't work particularly well. On the plus side, despite the aforementioned occasional sluggishness, the plot felt a little tighter than the first book. And the simple narrative works to create a book that's a bit of a lighter read (despite the length) or just easier for young teens to get on with.

There aren't many real surprises here. Most of the things that happen you can see coming a ways off, the 'subtle' hints really aren't. And the things that are more of a surprise as to what actually happens, you knew something was going to happen, so the impact isn't so big. There was one moment that really surprised me. Near the very end there is a conversation that takes place that shows real maturity and reality, surprising and impressing me. The lack of surprises do take a little away from the books, but overall I still enjoyed the book. There is a lot of foreshadowing for the next books, though of course I need to read it to find out if it really is or not, but I'd be more surprised if it wasn't. The series may not be fantastic, but it makes for good lighter reading and I still enjoyed the book, though not quite as much as the first for some reason. Still worth a look. 6/10

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Bound To Shadows by Keri Arthur

SPOILER ALERT!! There aren't real spoilers for Bound To Shadows itself, but there are big spoilers for the previous book. Wouldn't read this if you haven't yet read Deadly Desire!

"At a local vampire club, someone is beheading the clientele, and the peace the Guardians are meant to maintain is getting shaky. Human and vampire fatalities escalate and Riley Jenson - a rare hybrid of werewolf and vampire - finds herself struggling to make sense of the murders and, in particular, her main suspect: the club's owner Dante Starke and his powerful sexual aura. And if things weren't bad enough, she's also torn between her love for Quinn and her connection with the unpredictable werewolf Kye - her soulmate. With the city on the verge of all-out war, Riley must not only capture the killer, but choose between the man she loves and the man she's destined to be with."

Bound To Shadows is the 8th and penultimate book in the Riley Jenson, Guardian series. It took this series a while to grow on me, but now I'm hooked. I was looking forward to this book with ideas of what I thought could happen, and what I'd like to see happen. I got neither. This book took me completely by surprise. Several times in fact. And the ending? Never, never saw it coming 'til I was there.

Six months after discovering top hit man (and werewolf) Kye Murphy was her soulmate, Riley's still trying to forget him. They haven't seen each other in that time and Riley and Quinn, her vampire lover, are closer than ever. But soon after beginning her latest case Riley finds Kye back in her life. And determined to make her his anyway he has to. But with vampires being beheaded all over town for no obvious reasons, and by some unknown supernatural being, Riley has no time for his promises, or threats.

This book is very well done, and very shocking as I've already said. But on the lighter side, there are some fantastic moments with Riley's twin brother Rhoan, and his mate Liander. And with psychic Dia and her daughter Risa too.

In the previous book I really liked Kye, and although I no longer hated Quinn, I still wasn't a fan of him. Here...well, you should read to find out what happens for yourself. I will say that in some respects this book is too sharp a 180 turn on Deadly Desire. With Ms. Arthur maybe trying a little too hard to make us hate a certain man. But at the same time, it still made sense. This man, seems quite different here to what we've seen before, but I think those changes are part of the point. Part of why what happens at the end happens.

Overall, technically I'd have to give the book 10/10. It's well written with a tight and interesting plot, not to mention a shocking, sad but awesome ending, and some great character development. But, I can't help feeling a little disappointed with this the direction the series has taken with this book. It's not bad, just very different to anything I would have predicted based on earlier books. As I've said already, the shift feels a bit too sharp and sudden. I can understand why it's happened the way it has though. And the shocks were out of the blue and brilliant. The ending is going to have lasting, and massive, consequences for Riley, both personally and professionally and I can't wait to see how she handles them.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Tempted by P.C. and Kristin Cast

"Zoey needs a break after some serious excitement. Sadly, the House of Night school for vampyres doesn't feature breaks on its curriculum - even for a High Priestess in training and her gang. Plus juggling three guys is no stress reliever, especially when one is a sexy Warrior so into protecting Zoey that he's sensing her emotions. Wider stresses lurk too, and the dark force in Tulsa's tunnels is spreading. Could Stevie Rae be responsible for more than a group of misfit fledglings? And Aphrodite's visions warn Zoey to stay away from the immortal Kalona and his dark allure - but they also show that only Zoey can stop him. She's not exactly keen to meet up, but if Zoey don't go to Kalona he'll exact a fiery vengeance on those closest to her. She just has to find the courage to do what's necessary, or everything that's important to her will be destroyed."

Tempted is the sixth book in the House Of Night series. It's no secret that I'm not a fan of this series. I've found it far too cliched and irritating to be good. For me, books 2 and 3 were the best (though by no means great) and the previous book, Hunted, was simply appalling.

Hunted, in essence, was several hundred pages of repetitive talk about what was happening, why and Zoey's complete lack of ability to choose just one guy out of three. I find it very hard to put down a series if I make it past book two though, even if it's really bad. I saw this cheap on Amazon, so bought it, to give the series one more shot. The first thing to note is that this book is not told purely from Zoey's perspective. Most of it is, but there is a chapter from Stark, Heath and Aphrodite's POV's, a couple from the perspective of a Raven Mocker and several from Stevie Rae's.

First up, the good points. There is very little of the repetitive back story from Hunted here. There aren't the (very) questionable sexual scenes (there is one, maybe two, close calls, but compared to the threesome scene from Hunted, they're very tame). The far too cliched (and extremely annoying) gay characters Damien and Jack, seem to have been toned down here. They get a bit less page time, and when they are seen, they're not nearly so annoying. Finally, there is more progression to the overall story here than Hunted. The progression in Hunted could fit in to about 2 pages, here, there is enough to fill a chapter or two.

On to the bad. Zoey is still juggling three guys (and it would seem Stevie Rae is heading that was too), Heath (her human consort), Stark (her red vampire warrior) and Kalona...the bad guy, who's influence she's attempting to fight, with very little success. Erik, who was the first boyfriend, is (thankfully) ditched early on in this book. Now, I've never liked Erik's character, but even I will admit the authors have changed him a lot from the guy he originally was, and seem content to have Aphrodite saying stuff like 'he was always like that' in an attempt to make us think he really was always like that. Stevie Rae is given much more page time with chapters from her perspective for the first time. She is, frankly, dull. I had to force myself to read her chapters because I just don't care what problems she has or what new secrets she's keeping from Zoey or why. The chapters from the POV's of Stark and Heath at least have their place and reason, and actually work fairly well. The raven mockers though, I seriously disliked. Again, just a character I don't care about.

I can sum up this book in one word: Dull. There is very little action, it's almost all talk; what's going on, why it's happening, how to stop it, Aphrodite's visions (none of which are all that new from previous ones), who's keeping what secrets from who now, who the group are using their affinities on now...the list goes on.

And once again, the real action and progression of the plot occurs at the end. I got there and wondered why the authors couldn't have cut down on a load of the talking earlier on, and added to the ending. Because as it is, there really isn't one. There is an epilogue to this book, and I think one of two things should have happened to it. 1) It should have been cut completely ending with the previous chapter, which would have been a reasonable ending. 2) It should have been seriously extended. As it is, it just ends, almost like it's been chopped in the middle of a paragraph. Leaving it in a strange place with no explanation as to how you got there.

As always, the language causes a few stumbling blocks. The constant use of 'poopie' and 'bullpoopie' in place of crap, s*it and BS, is annoying. If the authors don't want their characters swearing, there are far more realistic ways around it. They're meant to be 'tough' kids going through big, life changing stuff, but when they keep saying 'poopie' you can't help but see them as little kids playing dress up. A new addition to the trying-too-hard language, is the repetitive use of 'heart' in place of 'love'. I know a lot of teenagers, and none of them regularly trade the words.

Overall, yes a slight improvement on Hunted, simply because the characters aren't so annoying. However, the reason they're less annoying is because they're all so flat. Almost all their fizz seems to have disappeared and for no reason I can see. Zoey spends a lot of the book either in or close to tears for one reason or another, and that's fairly annoying, but still better than she's been for several books. There is a death in this book, which goes hand in hand with a 'big twist' at the end, but you can see it coming. And really, it's very similar to something that's already happened, just with slightly different players. Definitely wouldn't recommend this series. Actually, would recommend not to bother with it! 2/10

Dawnbreaker by Jocelynn Drake

"Those of her race fear Mira for the lethal fire she bends to her will -- a power unique among nightwalkers, both a gift ... and a curse.

The naturi despise Mira for what she is -- as they prepare the final sacrifice that will destroy the barriers between the worlds. And once the naturi are unchained, blood, chaos, and horror will reign supreme on Earth.

Mira can trust only Danaus, the more-than-mortal vampire slayer, though he is sworn to destroy her kind. And now, as the day approaches when titanic forces will duel under cover of darkness, destiny draws them toward an apocalyptic confrontation at Machu Picchu. But all is not lost, for a wild card has been dealt to them: a rogue enemy princess who can change the balance of power and turn the dread tide."

Dawnbreaker is the third book in the Dark Days series. It takes place a little while after the events of book two, Dayhunter, and Mira is back in her domain, Savannah.

This third book starts off with a punch as Mira, along with three of her 'family', are in their car being chased by several of the Naturi. In the middle of the fight, Danaus, a vampire hunter, returns to help Mira out. The Naturi are gathering their forces once more, determined to free their trapped queen, Aurora. Rowe, her husband and strongest supporter, wants Mira there to see it.

But before anything can happen at Machu Picchu, the place of Mira's nightmares, where centuries ago she was tortured by the naturi and they failed to open the door between worlds, Mira must deal with the problems closer to home. Namely, the naturi taking over control of the werewolves, once strong allies of the nightwalkers, in an attempt to catch Mira in a trap.

For me, this series has just gotten better, and this is the book where I feel it's really hit it's stride. The pacing is good and fast with plenty of action, with some great twists. Mira is tougher than we've seen her, more in control and determined, not to mention showing some cool new powers. And I like it, a lot. She and Danaus continue to keep the other alive, so that they can kill each other one day. Except, at this point, the threats are sounding more like foreplay. They have great tension and dynamic to their relationship and I'm hoping the next book or two sees it become a romantic involvement. Dawnbreaker also sees the introduction of a couple new and interesting characters, in particular a rouge naturi princess. And we get a better look at a couple previously seen characters as well.

Overall, easily the best book in the series so far. The next two books in the series are out next year, the first of which, Prey For Dawn, will be in Danaus' perspective for the first time. Personally, I can't wait! 9/10

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

"Choose: A quick death...or a slow poison...About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace - and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust - and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonising death from the poison. As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear..."

Poison Study is the first book in the 'Study' trilogy.

Yelena is given a chance to escape being hung, but it's a stay of execution. After a year in prison she becomes food taster for the Commander, ruler of Ixia, the land Yelena grew up in. She trains and is supervised closely by the Commander's assassin, Valek. Deadly and uncaring, he gives just enough hope for Yelena to take his proposal to be the food taster, but not enough for her to believe she will live all that much longer.

But Yelena can't worry only about whether Valek intends to kill her or not. She has much more obvious enemies to contend with, and threats from unknowns as well. She finds herself wanted dead by the magicians of Sitia, a forbidden land, but Yelena has no idea why anyone there would even know about her, let alone know enough to want her dead. At the risk of their own lives. If the magicians are caught in Ixia, Valek will kill them, without question.

The longer Yelena's inside the castle, home of the Commander, the clearer it becomes that the Commander himself is in danger from an unseen enemy. And Yelena and Valek may be the only ones capable of saving him.

I really liked this book. Yelena is tough, a real survivor, but she has a soft voice and obvious vulnerabilities, making her very real, easy to like and empathise with. The world created here is simple enough to understand and get in to. The author hasn't bogged the book down with information either, but gives enough that you're not left wondering about the way things to work. The story moves along at a good pace, with some great twists along the way. And great likable (and those you love to hate) characters. There is good depth to the story, but it's tame enough for younger teens to read as well.

Overall, great story with a great ending leaving a lot of promise for the next book. Looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. 8/10

Monday, 26 October 2009

Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

"Anna Latham didn't know how complicated life could get - until she became a werewolf. And now she's not just part of any pack, but under the direct supervision of Bran, leader of the North American werewolves. And her mate is his son Charles, the pack enforcer. With all the advances that have been made in forensics, the werewolves will not be able to hide their existence from humans much longer - and Bran wants their coming out party to be on his terms. But his European counterparts don't see things the same way. Anna and Charles are chosen to represent Bran at a key meeting. But when a French werewolf, one of Bran's most vocal opponents, is found murdered, Charles's reputation shoots him to the top of the suspect list. And among the wolves, there is one penalty for breaking the law: death. The killer must be found, or Charles will take the fall."

Hunting Ground is the second in the Alpha and Omega series, which is the spin off series to one of my favourites, Mercy Thompson. A&O follows Charles Cornick, son of the leader of all American wolves Bran, and his new mate Anna.

Anna and Charles have only been mated, and married, for a month, and they haven't known each other much longer than that. They're still trying to get to know each other, adjust to shaving their lives, and Anna is trying to get over the pain and fear that her first alpha inflicted on her for three years. But around the foreign wolves, Anna and Charles need to show unity, not weakness, so they're playing it by ear.

Anna is a rare thing among wolves, she's an Omega. And that makes her something of a trophy in the eyes of some of the foreign wolves. When Anna is attacked though, Charles realises that they may not be the only threat to her.

The most frustrating thing about this book is that the attack and murder mentioned on the blurb, doesn't happen until 3/4 through the book. So you know it's going to happen and the rest is really build up for it. Bad summery on part of the publishers would be my guess on that one. The other thing I found frustrating, was that I figured out who the killer was, pretty early on. So for me, the tension just wasn't there while Anna and Charles figured it out.

The development of Anna and Charles relationship was good though. The way they were learning about each other and didn't try to run from the other too much. although they both felt the need at times. It's good and sweet, but I didn't hang on it. For me to really get in to a relationship in a book, I really need to be able to fancy the guy, and with Charles, I just don't. So there isn't a whole lot of tension to their relationship like there could be.

Overall, a good story and well written. The different third person perspectives work really well with this series and give a great overall view of everything. But for me, it's no where near as good as the Mercy Thompson series. Still worth reading though.

Rating: 6/10

Haunted by Kelley Armstrong

"Eve Levine - half-demon, black witch and devoted mother - has been dead for three years. She has a great house, an interesting love life and can't be killed again - which comes in handy when you've made as many enemies as Eve. Yes, the afterlife isn't too bad - all she needs to do is find a way to communicate with her daughter Savannah and she'll be happy. But fate - or more exactly, the Fates - have other plans. Eve owes them a favour, and they've just called it in. An evil spirit called the Nix has escaped from hell. She feeds on chaos and death, and is very good at persuading people to kill for her. The Fates want Eve to hunt her down before she does any more damage, but the Nix is a dangerous enemy - previous hunters have been sent mad in the process. As if that's not problem enough, it turns out that the only way to stop her is with an angel's sword. And Eve's no angel..."

Haunted is the fifth book in the Women of the Otherworld series and has been out for years. I've read all the other books in the series, both before and after this one, but until recently this has sat untouched on my shelf. I didn't much like Eve when she appeared in the previous book, so I wasn't interested in reading a story entirely about her. But I'm currently leading the series to a friend of mine, and I decided I couldn't lend her Haunted without reading it myself first.

Haunted is different to the other books in the series because it takes place in more than one world. And in each world, there are different rules about what is and isn't possible in them. It gets a bit tiring having constant world changes, but I didn't really have a problem keeping the rules for each one straight, so it could have been worse.

I did really quite like this story, although it's not my favourite of Kelley's work. Eve's character grew on me a lot as I followed her struggles. Eve wants nothing more than to find a way to interact with her daughter, Savannah, to still be able to protect her, despite being dead. When the Fate's call in their favor, she hopes it could bring her a way to do just that. But Kristof Nast, Savannah's father (also deceased) would love for Eve to just accept she's dead and make a life with him on the other side, leaving Savannah behind.

Eve's task also gets her involved with the Angels. And like the Fates, they seem to have their own agenda for Eve. One thing is for sure, Eve won't play by anyone else's rules. She'll complete her favor, as promised, but she's going to do it her way, no matter what anyone else tells her.

Overall, a really good read. Elena Michaels is still by far my favourite of Kelley's characters/narrators, but Eve's got a fun, sharp tongue and her brake the rules attitude makes for an entertaining read. Also gives us a good chance to see another part of Kelley's world and other characters from a different point of view.

Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Frostbitten by Kelley Armstrong

Spoiler warning! Spoilers for previous books ahead, read at your own risk.

"The Alaskan wilderness is a harsh landscape in the best of conditions, but with a pack of rogue werewolves on the loose, it's downright deadly. Elena Michaels, the American Werewolf Pack's chief enforcer, knows all too well the havoc "mutts" can wreak. When the Pack learns of a series of gruesome maulings and murders outside of Anchorage, Elena and her partner Clay travel to Alaska in the dead of winter, expecting to hunt down a pack of dangerous werewolves. But, trapped in a savage, frozen realm, it is their own untamed nature - and their werewolf heritage - they have to confront."

Frostbitten is the tenth book in the Women of the Otherworld series and is a return to Elena, the first and my favourite of Kelley's narrators. The previous book, Living With The Dead was the weakest book in the series by far, and I admit I was a little concerned that this would not live up to the usual expectations of her Elena books. But I needn't of worried. Frostbitten is a great return to form and may well be my second favourite book of the series, behind Bitten the first book.

Elena has been chasing a young mutt attempting to give him a warning, not from the Pack, but about a couple of other mutts. But he's doesn't want to hear it, he believes she intends to kill him. The chase leads her, and Clay her husband/mate/work partner, to Alaska. Once they arrive there though, they realise the scared, young mutt is the very least of their worries. They had been aware of a series of 'wolf' killings, but they hadn't realised just what they would be facing there.

There are rouge mutts, former pack mates and some unknown giant beast to contend with, and none of them are happy to see the Pack members around.

I loved this book. The plotting was tight and the pace fast, as Elena and Clay dealt with many problems, old and new, in the form of the other creatures around and personal ones. Both characters have grown a lot since Bitten and it's great to see them back here, just as engaging as ever. There is a good balance here with action and dealing with the more personal problems, which consists of old history and future concerns for Elena and seeing how Clay's dealing with his damaged arm after the events of Broken, not to mention the troubles of parenthood.

There is also the introduction of several new characters I think, and hope, we'll see again. They were a great addition. It was also good to find out what had happened to the Stillwells after they'd left the pack in 'Ascension' a short story I originally read on Kelley's website years ago (and now appears in the collection 'Men of the Otherworld') and had often wondered about.

Overall, a great book with great twists and turns that stopped me putting the book down until it was done. I have two tiny complains, and that was how little we got to see of Kate and Logan, Elena and Clay's twins, and Antonio in particular. Nick too I suppose, though he got a couple good moments towards the end. Still, these are little things and it was still a great book despite them.

Rating: 9/10

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

"Fifteen-year-old Clary Fray is an ordinary teenager, who likes hanging out in Brooklyn with her friends. But everything changes the night she witnesses a murder, committed by a group of teens armed with medieval weaponry. The murderous group are Shadowhunters, secret warriors dedicated to driving demons out of this dimension and back into their own. Drawn inexorably into a terrifying world, Clary slowly begins to learn the truth about her family - and the battle for the fate of the world."

City of Bones is the first book in the Mortal Instruments series. It follows Clary, a 15 year old who believes herself to be just an regular teen as she discovers the world of the Shadowhunters and learns she is anything but ordinary.

After witnessing an attack by three other teens claiming to be Shadowhunters, and realising even her best friend Simon, couldn't see them, things get even stranger for Clary. Her mom is attacked and kidnapped, but Clary has no idea why or who by. But the Shadowhunters seem to have some idea and she finds she has to rely on these strangers, who kill demons and live in a very different world to the one Clary's always known, to help her.

Soon she discovers that not only are there demons in the world, and Shadowhunters to kill them, but vampires, werewolves and various other creatures she believed to be myth, are real and all around her. Not only that, but her mom knew already and never told her. As Clary finds herself deeper and deeper in to this other world, she unravels more hidden secrets and learns a whole lot more about the real her than she'd ever imagined.

I liked this book, a lot more than I'd originally thought I would. But it's far from flawless. The writing is a little on the simple side, the plotting loose and the characters are a little flat, more obviously in some places than others. But I still found it a fairly gripping read. It's not un-put-down-able, but it held my interest well enough.

The world created is an imaginative one, with a lot to it and although not spectacularly written, it moves along at a good pace and the writing is easy to cruise along with. I found it a pretty fun read with some a couple decent twists along the way. A lot of it is given enough hints along the way that there aren't major shocks, but it wasn't enough to ruin it all.

A good, fun read if you don't mind the lighter writing and for me, I'm really looking forward to getting and reading the next two books soon. 8/10

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Apparently Having a Bad Night...

Apologies for once more intruding on reviews with my mess of a life, but I'm going to post this link anyways seeing as it's for my other blog. I just started it.

Basically, I'm having a crap night. A bad night with M.E. is...well, go read this, it might show you what it's like, or maybe just a glimpse. Life with a chronic illness is...pretty hard to describe, but this is just some of what I deal with.

If I have a separate blog to rant about life with M.E., then I'll keep it off here, so this is better and you guys won't get any more of my going on about being ill. Yay! *snort*

Going shopping for lots of books this week. Or in theory. May have to just order them.

Either way, will have 'Frostbitten' by Kelley Armstrong in the next few days and will have a review for that at least up this week. Maybe some others too, but we'll see.

Friday, 25 September 2009

On The Edge by Ilona Andrews

On The Edge is the first book in the new series 'The Edge' by Ilona Andrews, author of one of my most favourite series, Kate Daniels. So I was looking forward to this book with excitement.

Rose Drayton lives on the Edge, a place between the Broken (our world) where magic doesn't exist and is a myth, and the Weird, where technology doesn't exist and magic rules. Being an Edger gives Rose the ability to cross the boundaries from one world to the other, but she doesn't really belong in either.

An Edgers most powerful weapon is their flash, a bolt of magic like lightning. Everyone has it to a different extent, and Rose has the most powerful flash an Edger has had in 100 years. It makes her hated and envied amongst the Edgers, and wanted among the noble bluebloods of the Weird as a 'broodmare'. All Rose wants is to make enough money at her minimum wage job in the Broken to put food on the table for her younger brothers, 10 year old Georgie who's a necromancer and 8 year old Jack who is a changeling.

But bad stuff keeps happening to Edgers. There is a darkness around that's going after the most powerful Edgers, taking their magic, feeding on it. At the same time, Rose is approached by a blueblood from the Weird, Declan, who is determined to have Rose. But with her brothers and other Edgers at risk of being destroyed, he agrees to team up with Rose and the Edgers to fight the danger. If they can.

I love this book, it wasn't a disappointment at all. What did surprise me, is how much I loved it. It couldn't match the brilliance of Kate Daniels with a single book, but with more it may well do just that. Rose is a strong character, with family at the center of her heart. She would do anything for her brothers, who she's raised since her father left them in search of some 'big treasure', years after their mothers death.

Told in third person, predominantly from Rose's POV but with snatches from others, it contains much more romance than the Kate series. But there is plenty of action too and is a well balanced plot, not too much of one thing before going back to the other. Like the Kate series, the characters are well formed with flaws and plenty of intelligence. The book contains plenty of witchcraft, changelings (shape shifters), necromancers and many other magical beings. All within a well thought out and developed world with boundaries and rules, where actions have consequences. Making for a great, realistic (as urban fantasy/paranormal romance can get) book to get your teeth in to. There isn't quite so much humor in this as the Kate series, or I didn't so, but there were some good moments, and the last page in particular made me crack up.

The first Kate Daniels book wasn't spectacular, in fact, it took a lot to get in to it and at the end it was still nothing more than 'okay', compared to Magic Bites alone, this is a better start to a series. The world building is done carefully without dragging on the plot in big chunks, instead you're fed it in bits as the book goes on, learning more as it goes on. There aren't so many twists and turns in this, and less surprises as a result, but that doesn't stop it being a very good read and a great introduction to a new world and series.

Whether you'd class the book as urban fantasy, fantasy or paranormal romance, I'm not sure. There isn't really enough 'urban' to it for it to be UF, but it's not true fantasy either. And although there is a strong romance plot, it's not the whole thing. Still, I suppose each is close enough as a guide of the basic genre. And it's a great book! I really look forward to more in this world.

Rating: 8/10

The Eternal Kiss (YA vampire anthology)

"Supernatural forces and desires come alive in these thirteen vampire tales. Like love, the adventures are never safe and hungers never die. And chances are taken. If you are seduced by the mystery of the heart, beating for a destiny unknown, you will helplessly follow the characters' in this collection - longing for one to call their own. Featuring several New York Times Bestsellers, connect with the pulse of the talented Eternal Kiss authors..."

Anthologies are odd things. Sometimes they're great and you can find several new authors to try, and sometimes they're not so good and you wish you could just buy the stories by authors you already know and love, without the rest. This book falls firmly in to the former category. Here's a short review for each of the 13 stories, in order:

1. Falling To Ash by Karen Mahoney. Rating: 9/10
Fantastic short story about a teen vampire called Moth. One tiny flaw, there is not nearly enough here!! Good news is Ms. Mahoney's just been given a deal for 2 books in this world, the second of which I believe carries on Moth's story. Fingers crossed they're out sooner rather than later!!
2. Shelter Island by Melissa de la Cruz. Rating: 6/10
I've never read anything by Ms. de la Cruz before but I quite liked this story. It didn't really have an ending to it, which was a shame, I would have liked more, but it was still a decent short story.
3. Sword Point by Maria V. Snyder. Rating: 9/10
Fantastic short story! Follows fencer Ava who wants to learn from the very best. But the new Academy she's attending is not all it seems. This is the first thing by Ms. Snyder I've read, but after this, I'm desperate to check out her other work!
4. The Coldest Girl In Coldtown by Holly Black. Rating: 6/10
I really like the premise of this story. Rather than another flu the latest infection to be taking out hundreds around the world, is vampirisim. It's a decent short too. Not my favourite here, but nicely written.
5. Undead Is Very Hot Right Now by Sarah Rees Brennan. Rating: 6/10
There is a vampire in the latest boy band to hit it big. *gigglesnort* Oddly, I liked this. It wasn't great, but it was funny and kinda cute which helped.
6. Kat by Kelley Armstrong. Rating: 7/10
A YA short set in Kelley's 'Otherworld'. This sits outside her Darkest Powers trilogy, with different characters, but has ties to it. You don't need to have read any of the Darkest Powers books for this though. It's a good short and I'd like to see more of the characters in the future, but it didn't grab me like some of her other work. Kat has been on the run for 2 years with her vampire companion, but now the people chasing them have found them again. The question is, why were they being hunted in the first place?
7. The Thirteenth Step by Libba Bray. Rating: 7/10
A drug rehab center in NYC is not all it seems. I liked this short, a lot, but it doesn't get 4 stars because I was a little disappointed by the ending. It made sense, I guess, but I would have liked it to go a different way. Still, good solid story.
8. All Hallows by Rachel Caine. Rating: 6/10
Set in Rachel's Morganville world, after book 6 Carpe Corpus, but from Eve Rosser's POV rather than Claire Danvers'. Things have been better in Morganville for the friends of late, but it's Halloween and almost nothing goes to plan in Morganville and Eve finds herself in serious trouble once more. A good solid story, but rather like the rest of the Morganville series, it left me feeling like there was something missing. It's a good series, just not entirely for me I think.
9. Wet Teeth by Cecil Castellussi. Rating: 2/10
The only story in the book that I truly didn't like at all. It's just a bit strange and the ending was...unpleasant. Didn't enjoy it at all.
10. Other Boys by Cassandra Clare. Rating: 6/10
A teen girl who's lived a sheltered and restricted life suddenly finds herself getting attention from the hot new goth boy in school. Who claims to be a vampire. A decent story, easy reading, but the end was a little strange. I think it could have done with being a bit longer to show more detail, but otherwise, it was good. Will probably give her Mortal Instruments series a try after this.
11. Passing by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguie. Rating: 9/10
This is another one where the only flaw is that it's far too short!! A bunch of teenagers are about to start on their final 'exam' to become vampire hunters. Fantastic short, loved the characters, the detail, the plot...would love to see more in this world from these authors. I'm planning to get the first in the 'Wicked' series which they wrote together too, to see if it's just as good.
12. Ambition by Lili St. Crow. Rating: 8/10
Really good short story about a very poor girl living in a rich girls world. The ending is frustrating, it makes sense, but leaves too much open! Would have liked a little more, but I still really enjoyed it. I gave up on one of Lili's adult series' as I couldn't strange the protagonist, but after this, I'm willing to give her YA series, Strange Angels, a try, which I otherwise wouldn't have.
13. All Wounds by Dina James. Rating: 8/10
Intriguing world. Vampires, healers and (albeit unseen) hellhounds just for starters. It felt slightly choppy, like maybe it had been cut down to length a little harshly, but other wise, really great story and I'd love to read more in this world. Fingers crossed Dina can sell it and get it published sooner rather than later!

Overall, a fantastic collection of short stories. I've added several books to my 'to buy' list as a result, and I'll be watching for books from a couple other too. Great book, and great value! 9/10

Monday, 14 September 2009

Magic Mourns by Ilona Andrews

Magic Mourns is one of 4 short stories in the anthology Must Love Hellhounds. It follows Andrea covering for her best friend Kate Daniels at work while Kate recuperates from the events of the end of Magic Strikes.

Andrea receives a call from a guy who knows Kate saying a giant three headed dog is chasing a shapeshifter, who's tail is literally on fire. Andrea jumps at the chance to go shoot something and heads out there. What she finds is Raphael, the werehyena who's been after her romantically for six months, is the one being chased by this dog, who's the size of a small house and Raphael's a little out of his league. But as they escape from the hellhound long enough for Andrea to find out what's going on, she realises it's a lot more complicated than them simply needing to eliminate the dog.

Andrea is a lot like Kate in many ways, just with different issues and specialities. But like Kate, she's got a lot of deep and buried issues and a hidden past she wants to remain that way. Not to mention a super sexy shifter fighting for her love.

I liked this short story, but it didn't have the punch of other short works I've read by Ms. Andrews. I don't really know why, but it just didn't for me. Still, it was a good story and seeing more of Andrea and Raphael was really good, they're two of my favourite secondary characters, of any series. A couple interesting tidbits about Kate and Curran from other people too, which I'm hoping will be explored more in the 4th Kate book, Magic Bleeds. Still, good short story. 4/5

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols

"High school senior Meg revels in being a rebel. She sports choppy blue hair, and tight t-shirts, cuts class, and is often found where she's not supposed to be. Like hanging out on a railroad-tracks-covered bridge that's off-limits to trespassers. When she and her friends are busted for trespassing and underage drinking, she's sentenced to spend her spring break riding along with a rookie police officer on his nightshift patrol. Compounding the punishment is the fact that the cop, John After, is only two years older than Meg, and a former classmate to boot. He thinks he has Meg's number and has nothing but contempt for her childish rebellion. Meg in turn has nothing but contempt for Officer After's straight-laced, by-the-book attitude. But Meg has her reasons for lashing out, and John has his reasons for his need for law and order. And they're about to discover that they have a lot more in common than either one of them could have dreamed..."

This is the first non-urban fantasy book I've read in a while, and its one I saw by chance on Never heard of it or the author before, but the cover and title caught my eye so I decided to give it a try. What I found was a gem of a book I completely fell in love with.

Meg is an outwardly tough girl who lives life on the edge, but it doesn't take readers long to realise that most of it is a cover for a much more vulnerable girl. As punishment for a drunken stunt on a railway bridge she's forced to forgo spring break and spend the nights riding around in Officer John After's squad car with him. Something she's initially very unhappy about. Meg likes to break the rules and do as she pleases. John's by the book ways infuriate her.

But John has secrets enough to rival Meg's. As they work together they push each other, hard. Meg determined to discover why John's so set on staying in their small town. John determined to find out why Meg's so set of getting out and staying out. As the story unfolds, and Meg and John grow closer, both their secrets begin to come to light and things get messy.

It's a damn near perfect book in my opinion. Meg's sassy voice and the sharp dialogue kept me hooked from page one until I'd finished it, I could not put it down! Ms. Echols does a great job of capturing these teens emotions and shows how long past events can have lasting and devastating consequences.

There are a couple of good twists that I didn't see coming and the carefully built tension ensures it's a book you can't put down. I love Meg's voice and fell in love with John right along side her. At just shy 250 pages it's a quick read, but that doesn't mean it's impact free. There is a lot packed in to this shorter book. I would highly recommend it to all older teens, and reckon there are plenty of adults who would also get a lot out of it too. One of the very best YA books I've ever read. Can not recommend it high enough! I spent a couple weeks after reading it completely unable to get it off my mind. 10/10

Sunday, 6 September 2009

This has become... unintentional habit. For which I apologise and ask you to bear with me.

Anyone who's followed this blog for a little while will realise I've put barely any reviews up of late which is odd. And if you've followed it longer than that (or just read older posts) you'll know I suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (or M.E. as it's also known). Basically what happened is about a month ago I relapsed pretty badly. I get exhausted doing far less then I was before (and even then I couldn't do much) and I'm having to deal with a lot of headaches and brain fog again.

That makes it hard for me to sit and read for hours at a time and to write reviews as well. So in the last month, I've not read much at all. Or I've been rereading snippets of favourite books instead of new ones. So instead of me reading two or three books a week, I've read about 3 in 3 weeks. All it means for the blog is that for the time being, there will be fewer reviews coming. I'll get past this bad point or at least relearn how to keep going while this ill, and the pace will pick up again. I'm not abandoning the blog by any means, just can't put the energy in to reading or writing as I need right now.

Oh, and yeah, layout change. Been meaning to change things for a while, still not totally happy with it but it'll do for now.

Update over :)

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

"Charles Cornick is his pack's enforcer and lives a harsh life, doing jobs other wolves can't - or won't. And his most recent task was rescuing Anna Latham from a life of brutality. This leaves him shot and wounded, but he's happy to pay the price. Charles is strongly drawn to Anna, and her growing 'Omega' powers will see his people through dangerous times. Anna desperately needs her new mountainous home to be safer than the life she's left behind. But when a rogue werewolf starts murdering hikers, Charles and Anna are sent into the winter forests to investigate. Charles is still weak and will need Anna's strength as they discover a web of witchcraft that could drag down the whole pack. Including its leader Bran, Charles's father, head of a vast network of wolves. And if Bran weakens, dark madness could run like a fever through half a continent."

Cry Wolf is the first Alpha and Omega book, which is the spin off series to Mercy Thompson. It picks up directly after the short story, Alpha and Omega, which appears in the anthology On The Prowl and really, you need to read that first to really understand what's going on.

The time line starts somewhere in the first Mercy book, so it's almost like taking a step back in time if you read this after reading more than the first Mercy book. It gives readers a much better look at Bran, the Marrok Alpha of all North America werewolves, and his second son, Charles as well as how the Marrok's pack works.

Unlike the Mercy series, this series is written in third person and follows a couple of different points of view. Predominantly new wolf Anna and her mate Charles, but there are little bits from Bran and two other characters as well. I don't always get on with multiple POV's, but here, it works very well. It doesn't switch too frequently and the amount we see of each fits with the story being told. It's not been balanced so everyone gets the same page time, but balanced so the story is told well from the POV most relevant at the time without jumping around.

Anna is a very different character to Mercy. New to the werewolf world and treated badly for most of it, she wishes she was anywhere else. But instead, her wolf has decided Charles Cornick, son and enforcer of the Marrok, is her mate and Anna has to stay. Out of the city, away from her old pack she fights to find security and safety to regain her lost confidence.

Charles does his best to help her, and prove that as an Omega wolf she's something rare and precious to be treated with nothing but respect and care. But when he has to go hunting for a rouge, as being enforcer entails, he knows he runs the risk of scaring her off. But an Omega wolf could be just the thing he needs to help with this rouge, so Anna gets to go along too and they soon find themselves facing something much bigger and darker than Charles could have feared.

Cry Wolf is a fantastic start to the series and I really loved it. Having read Mercy books 1-4 and seeing a little of Bran, it was nice to see more of him, how he works, how he thinks and find out more about who he is. Anna and Charles were both good characters to get to know as well. And you can't help but feel for both of them seeing both sides of the relationship. Like when Anna walks away at one point, she feels one thing and Charles assumes it's completely different. You're willing them to just talk and deal with it, but there is too much else going on. I can't wait to read Hunting Ground and see how things develop!

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 28 August 2009

Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

SPOILER ALERT!! Unavoidable major spoilers for Shadow Kiss, the third Vampire Academy book, DO NOT read this if you've yet to read Shadow Kiss as it will spoil it hugely.

"Rose Hathaway's life will never be the same.

The recent attack on St. Vladimir's Academy devastated the entire Moroi world. Many are dead. And, for the few victims carried off by Strigoi, their fates are even worse. A rare tattoo now adorns Rose's neck, a mark that says she's killed far too many Strigoi to count. But only one victim matters . . . Dimitri Belikov. Rose must now choose one of two very different paths: honoring her life's vow to protect Lissa—her best friend and the last surviving Dragomir princess—or, dropping out of the Academy to strike out on her own and hunt down the man she loves. She'll have to go to the ends of the earth to find Dimitri and keep the promise he begged her to make. But the question is, when the time comes, will he want to be saved?

Now, with everything at stake—and worlds away from St. Vladimir's and her unguarded, vulnerable, and newly rebellious best friend—can Rose find the strength to destroy Dimitri? Or, will she sacrifice herself for a chance at eternal love?

After the heartbreaking events of Shadow Kiss, Rose has walked away from the academy, her duty and her best friend in an effort to hold up an unspoken promise. Now she's alone in Russia hunting the man she loves. But when she finally finds him, can she do what she promised? It's what he wanted, but he's not dead and he still wants her. She has the chance to finally be with him, for good, without anyone else in the way.

Rose meets several people along the way on her journey to find Dimitri, who help or hinder her, but all give her a better look at the world around her and the way some things work.

Blood Promise is very different to the first three books in the series, with Rose away from the Academy, Lissa and the rest of the people she trusted. It's the first time we've seen her truly alone and without a safety net. She's in the real world and in a lot more danger than normal.

It's much darker than the previous books as well. There is less humor and Rose isn't quite up to her sassy best, but at a realistic level given the circumstances. Rose is dealing with a lot of pain and sadness at the loss of Dimitri and you feel every moment of it, and you can completely understand her desperate desire to believe Dimitri is still the man he always was. Rose does a lot of growing up through Blood Promise. And back at the Academy Lissa is struggling to cope without Rose to lean on for the first time in her life. A real wake up call for her too.

There are plenty of twists and turns, and the book is well written, blending the flashbacks and time in someone elses' head well with the mostly emotional journey Rose is going through. There was a lot left open at the end leaving me wanting the next book now. But it wasn't the killer ending that Shadow Kiss was. Not a bad thing! Like Blood Promise this year, Spirit Bound is the book at the top of my 'must have' list for next year. 9/10

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Blood Promise review is coming, Promise!

I had meant to get the Blood Promise review up yesterday, but I was really ill, and am still feeling really bad today. It's part of the reason for there being no reviews for a couple weeks. Been away as well and had limited internet time there, so couldn't really get to any. I promise the BP review is coming, maybe later or tomorrow, but it will be up soon. Just can't concentrate enough to write it at the moment.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Frostbite by Richelle Mead

"It's winter break at St Vladimir's, and a massive Strigoi vampire attack has put the school on high alert. This year's trip away from the academy to the wintery peaks of Idaho has suddenly become mandatory. But Rose's troubles seem to follow her wherever she goes - dealing with the pain of knowing that her relationship with her tutor Dimitri can never be, things get even more complicated when one her closest friends admits his feelings for her. The glittering winter landscape may create the illusion of safety but Rose - and her heart - are in more danger than she ever could have imagined..."

Frost Bite is the second book in the very popular Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead.

Rose is meant to be taking her Qualifier. A combined interview and exam to show if she's good enough to be a guardian. She's taking it away from the school, but when she and Dimitri arrive at their destination they're met with horror. The guardian meant to give the exam is dead, along with the family he protected and the other guardians. All by Strigoi hands. The attack shocks the vampire world. It's almost unheard of and security is increased at the school and all Moroi families are on alert.

For Rose and her friends, there could be worse things than a mandatory ski trip, if it were as simple as that. But Rose can't forget the other things going on in her life. Her long absent mother has just reappeared and it's far from a happy reunion. Someone else has their eye on Dimitri, and it looks like he wants her too, making Rose very jealous. And Mason, Rose's good friend, is pushing for them to be more than that, for her to finally take his interest seriously. Lissa is making a new friend who could have a bit impact on her their lives. Of course there are also on going repercussions within their world after the attack and unrest is showing itself within the Moroi ranks.

Frost Bite is set a few weeks after the end of Vampire Academy. It continues the story of Rose's training to protect Lissa, but shows there is a lot more to the world then we've seen so far. Life is getting more dangerous for Rose and her fellow students, even inside somewhere meant to be completely safe like St. Vladimir's. It gives us a better look in to Moroi society, how it works, how guardians work and how each race see the other.

The story starts off with good pace and doesn't let up. You can really feel for Rose and what's happening to her and understand her actions. She shows that she's growing up, accepting the horrors she's seen and figuring out how to deal with them. There are plenty of unexpected twists and the ending is surprising, painful and fantastic. It left me wanting a whole lot more. 9/10